Judging by the results of this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, there’s a noticeable thread of quality, passion and natural talent that runs through the industry, whether we’re talking established producers or new kids on the block.

The results of the 2018 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show (#OMTWS) were announced at a luncheon at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town on 29 May. Of the 977 wines judged, 40 gold medals and 23 trophies were awarded for best in class, including the coveted most successful producer of the show.

This prestigious honour went to Warwick Wine Estate and its winemaker, Nic van Aarde. Warwick also walked off with the trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon Blend for its Warwick Professor Black 2017 and the trophy for Best Cabernet Franc for the Warwick Cabernet Franc 2015.

“I feel exhilarated,” Nic says. “It’s been a long road and we put in a lot of hard work. It’s just good to see it has finally paid off.” He puts his success down to being focused in his work. “For me it’s about focus in the vineyard and focus in the cellar. But having a strong brand also helps. I think it’s easier when you have a clear idea of which direction you want to take with your wine.”

Shiraz was this year’s biggest class with 106 entries (110 last year), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon with 94 (93 last year). Pinotage was slightly down (50 compared with 53 last year), but Chenin Blanc was up by 26% from 62 last year to 79.

Sauvignon Blanc, with 96 entries (up four from last year) and Chardonnay with 80 (down nine compared with last year) led the white wine charge, while Bordeaux blends were up by 10% compared with last year with 86 entries. Merlot with 45 entries (43 last year) and Pinot Noir with 28 entries (23 last year) accounted for the balance of the major red wine classes.

Chairperson and convener of the #OMTWS and leading wine authority in South Africa, Michael Fridjhon says he’s proud of the quality of judging at this year’s event. “Even though the panel changes every year, there’s a certain carry weight, which means judges are pulling their weight together, rather than pulling it apart. For me, that’s a very encouraging sign.”

This year’s results exceeded expectations as 90% of the trophy winners were gold medallists from the past five years.

Equally exciting is the presence of several newcomers who stole the limelight. De Grendel, Laborie, Springfontein and Middelvlei are all first-time trophy winners, while Arabella, Beaumont, Glenelly, Grande Provence, Middelvlei, Overhex, Rainbow’s End and Zandvliet are among the first-time gold medallists.

Middelvlei winemaker Tienie Momberg won gold for his Middelvlei Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 and a trophy for Best Shiraz-based Red Blend for his Middelvlei Momberg 2016.

Although this is Middelvlei’s first time on the podium, the Mombergs have been traditional wine producers since 1919 and their wine is still fermented in old concrete tubs in the estate’s century old cellar.

“We don’t use any fancy techniques and try to keep it as natural as possible,” Tienie says. “I think it’s about getting the basics right. For me, winemaking is all about timing. I always say that if you can cook an egg to perfection you’ll probably be a good winemaker.”

Among the sparkling array of winners were several noteworthy achievements. The top red wine of the show was the 2015 Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah, a worthy successor to last year’s Best Red on Show, Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2014.

The 2018 winner of the Nestlé Pure Life Trophy for the show’s best Sauvignon Blanc was Stark-Condé for its 2017 Round Mountain (wooded) Sauvignon Blanc.

The 2015 Buitenverwachting ‘1769’ won the dessert wine trophy which the 2014 vintage bagged last year. Two vintages in a row of the Landzicht Muscadel won the best fortified wine trophies and two successive vintages of DeMorgenzon Chardonnay, the 2016 in 2017 and the 2017 in 2018, won gold medals.

Stellar Organics No Sulphur Added Organic Shiraz won gold medals in 2018 and 2016 for the 2017 and 2015 vintages respectively.

A comparison between the 2015 and 2018 results is equally fascinating with gold medals for Olifantsberg Silhouette 2014 and 2013, Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2015 and 2009, and Vergelegen GVB 2013 and 2011.

“The other key takeaway from this year’s event was the depth of talent in the strong classes,” Michael says. “Look at how many Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay gold medals there were, and look at how good those wines are. Our strong classes are indisputably world-class. The wines on the tasting benches were absolutely fabulous this year.”

With new stars sharing the podium with familiar players at this year’s show, it’s fair to say the judges have produced a credible, coherent set of results the wine-drinking public can confidently rely on.

 Gold medal winners

  • Arabella Pinotage 2017
  • Backsberg Pumphouse Shiraz 2016
  • Beaumont Family Wines Dangerfield Syrah 2016
  • Boschendal Appellation Series Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2017
  • Buitenverwachting Christine 2012
  • Cape Point Vineyards Noordhoek Sauvignon Blanc 2017
  • De Grendel Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc 2017
  • DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2017
  • DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017
  • Diemersfontein Woolworths Reserve Collection Pinotage 2016
  • Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chardonnay 2016
  • Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2016
  • Grande Provence Chenin Blanc 2017
  • Marras Swartland Los Tros Chenin Blanc 2017
  • Meerlust Rubicon 2015
  • Middelvlei Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
  • Olifantsberg Silhouette 2014
  • Rainbow’s End Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
  • Springfontein Daredevils’ Drums Bunches Broken Shiraz 2016
  • Stellar Organics Woolworths No Sulphur Added Organic Shiraz 2017
  • Survivor Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Overhex Wines International)
  • Zandvliet Shiraz 2015

 Trophy winners

  • Old Mutual Trophy for Most Successful Producer Overall: Warwick Wine Estate
  • Makro Trophy for Best Shiraz, Old Mutual International Judges’ Trophy and Old Mutual Trophy for Best Red Wine Overall: Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2015
  • Harold Eedes Trophy for Best Chenin Blanc, Old Mutual Trophy for Best White Wine Overall: Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2016
  • Old Mutual Trophy for Discovery of the Show/Best Value Gold Medallist: Arabella Pinotage 2017
  • American Express Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Rustenberg Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
  • Old Mutual Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine: Laborie Méthode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs 2011
  • Old Mutual Trophy for Best Dessert Wine (Unfortified): Buitenverwachting ‘1769’ 2015
  • Riedel Trophy for Best Bordeaux-style Red Blend: Diemersdal Private Collection 2016
  • Miele Trophy for Best Chardonnay: Tokara Reserve Collection Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016
  • Nestlé Pure Life Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc: Stark-Condé Round Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2017
  • Grand Roche Trophy for Best White Blend: Backsberg Family Reserve White 2017
  • Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Blend: Warwick Professor Black 2017
  • Trophy for Best Cabernet Franc: Warwick Cabernet Franc 2015
  • Trophy for Best Shiraz-Based Red Blend: Middelvlei Momberg 2016
  • Trophy for Best Pinotage: De Grendel Amandelboord Pinotage 2016
  • Trophy for Best Niche Variety: Springfontein Limestone Rocks Child in Time Petit Verdot 2012
  • Trophy for Best Merlot: Eagles’ Nest Merlot 2014
  • Trophy for Best Fortified Wine: Landzicht Wit Muskadel 2016
  • Trophy for Best Museum Class Sauvignon Blanc: Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011
  • Trophy for Best Museum Class White Blend: Vergelegen G.V.B White 2013

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